Stourhead chalk downs walk
Stourhead, Stourton, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 6QDRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Enjoy panoramic views over the Stourhead estate and surrounding countryside. The Iron Age hill fort is a rich habitat for wild flowers, butterflies and birds. A perfect place to fly a kite on a windy day.
- Grade of walk: Trainer (all rounder)
- Type of walk: 'Beautiful Views'
- Bus stop
Start: Stourhead car park, grid ref: ST780340
From the National Trust car park go over the stile in the far left corner. Keep to the main path and head towards the old chalk quarry, from which there are wonderful views across the surrounding farmland. In the summer this is a great place to relax and spot the different butterfly species.
The Stourhead chalk downs are ecologically diverse, especially in spring and summer. This area is home to rare butterfly species including the Adonis blue and the Marsh Fritillary butterfly - one of the most endangered butterfly species in this country. Look out for other species too like the green hairstreak and the holly blue.
Walk to the top of the quarry and over the stile onto the Neolithic camp. You're now standing on ancient ground dating to around 5000 BC.
Whitesheet Hill is one of Wiltshires richest archaeological sites. The Neolithic camp is an enclosure built about 5,600 years ago and is the oldest type of earthwork visible in Britain. There are also lots of Bronze Age burial mounds containing tombs of people who lived 4,000 years ago. As you walk towards the hill fort, you'll see a brick and concrete structure - a cold war bunker used to monitor the fallout of potential nuclear attack. Beyond the bunker is a ditch and a bank, known as a cross-ridge dyke, built around 3,000 years ago.
Head for the hill forts highest point, where you can take in the stunning views across the 2,650 acre (1,072ha) Stourhead estate. On a clear day you can even see King Alfreds Tower in the distance.
The Iron Age hill fort is over 2,500 years old. At its highest point there are panoramic views across the Stourhead estate, with King Alfreds tower in the distance. There are also beautiful views over the rest of Whitesheet Hill and the spectacular Zeals Knoll, an important chalk downland site. The village of Zeals is a settlement site from Saxon times.
Look out for spring flowers and orchids, and listen out for skylarks singing in the summer sky. Hares, barn owls and grey partridge all enjoy this precious habitat, grazed by cattle in the summer and sheep in the winter. If youre lucky you may even see Adonis blue butterflies.
Head for the fence and follow it to the left until you reach the information panel and stile. Cross the stile and turn left. Follow the track and pass an 18th-century milestone.
Follow the track back to the main road. Turn left and take the second right. Follow the signs to Stourhead and the main visitor car park.
We hope that you really enjoyed this one-mile walk. The National Trust looks after some of the most spectacular areas of countryside for the enjoyment of all. We need your support to help us continue our work to cherish the countryside and provide access to our beautiful and refreshing landscapes. To find out more about how you too can help our work as a volunteer, member or donor please go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk
End: Stourhead car park, grid ref: ST780340
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Moderate
- Distance: 1 mile (1.6km)
- Time: 30 minutes to 40 minutes
- OS Map: Landranger 183
Mostly uneven ground with some steep slopes and stiles. It can get very muddy when wet. Dogs are welcome but please keep under control, especially on Whitesheet Hill.
- How to get here:
- By bus: bus from Warminster or Shaftesbury to Zeals, roughly 2 miles away (3.2km)
- By train: Gillingham, 7 miles (11.2km); Bruton 7.5 miles (12km)
- By car: Follow signs off A303 for Stourhead. Continue past Stourhead junction for 0.5 miles (800m) and turn right just before Red Lion Inn. On B3092 from Frome, turn left immediately after Red Lion Inn. Continue along the track to the National Trust car park
- Contact us